September 19, 2012

San Francisco - Week 4

Good afternoon! I hope your week has been as great as mine.

So this Thursday, we went to San Francisco. No big deal. After a short nap, we woke up at 2 in the morning to fly into California to the French Consulate. We took a bus to the Salt Lake airport, the MTC threw a packet of information at us, then left us to fend for ourselves. We had a group of 11 missionaries all going to France, so it was interesting traveling the whole day in a pack. The MTC gave the packet of information and the cell phone to my companion, Elder Barr, which is ironic because he was the only one of us who hadn't flown on a plane before and he was the one responsible to get us through the airport. We all kind of freaked out a little bit when he was dropping papers and our passports and visa paperwork everywhere as soon as we walked into the airport, so we quickly took responsibility for our own paperwork.

Our flight left at around 5, and I sat next to a man going to Oregon to visit his family. He didn't know about missionaries and he was curious about what we did, so I told him about it while trying to fight off the desire to sleep. It was only an hour and a half flight, so we got to San Francisco pretty quick.

Once we got off the plane, we used the cell phone they gave us to call a taxi service. A half hour later, our personal driver named Edgar showed up. He's from the Philippines, and he was really nice to us. But I'll get more into Edgar later. After about 20 minutes of riding in the van to the center of the city, one of our tires went completely flat, and we had to stop in the middle of the road. Since we had been awake for around 6 hours without any breakfast, we asked Edgar where the closest bakery was, got out of the van, and walked a block down to breakfast. We really had to work for it though. Since we were stopped in the middle of the road, we had to hop onto the train tracks for the public transportation system, not get hit by the train, then jump a fence onto the platform to get into the intersection so that we could finally reach the sidewalk. Not 10 seconds after we had gotten out of the van, a drunk man ran up to us asking us if we were Jehovah's Witnesses and asking us if we liked his hat. If you were wondering, his hat wasn't anything special, but we said we liked it and walked away. Life in public is a little different when you wear a missionary name tag. The entire day, basically everyone stared at us. People stared from their cars and people stared from the sidewalk.

Edgar had promised us that there would be a replacement van by the time we finished breakfast, so we took our time and met Edgar back in the middle of the road. When we came back, we discovered that either the replacement van also had a flat tire, or our van had never gotten a replacement. We assumed it was the latter. But since we only had a half hour until our appointment at the consulate, Edgar decided to abandon the plan to get a replacement van and decided to flag down taxis for all of us. Since he wasn't having much luck getting a taxi in the middle of the street, Edgar decided to try for taxis at the nearest intersection and motioned for us to follow him. Let me tell you, we were quite the sight to see. It was a group of 11 missionaries following a Filipino man through the middle of the street like a family of ducks, then hopping train tracks and a fence to get to the other side. I think traffic was slowing down to try to figure out what was going on. Anyway, good ol' Edgar found us a few taxis and paid a little extra so they would be aggressive and get us to the consulate on time. That was a scary ride through the middle of San Francisco. I think our driver laid on the horn more than he let off. But, at least most of us got there safe. Just kidding, all of us got there safe.

The appointment at the consulate only took around 45 minutes since all they needed was a signature and a picture, so we had the whole day to ourselves, but without a driver since the van had a flat tire. So, we found a map of the city and took to the streets because we were determined to have a good time. We eventually made our way through Chinatown, where we were not only a herd of missionaries, but the only ones speaking English and we were significantly taller than everyone else. Then we walked through little Italy, bought some food at Trader Joe's, walked down Lombard Street, and eventually made our way to Fisherman's Wharf. We judged that we had walked at least 10 miles throughout the day. Sometimes, we found some LDS people who were nice and kind of freaked out when they saw such a big group of missionaries. Other times, people would call us a "Big group of Mormons," but they had an odd tendency to forget the second M in Mormon. So, I cheerfully responded with something like, "I don't believe so, sir, but I hope you're having a good day nonetheless." One man responded to the question in an angry voice with, Compared to what?" To which I said, "Why, compared to normal, of course!" I don't think he was having such a good day that day.

Fisherman's Wharf was nice for a few reasons. For one, we liked to stand next to the dancing man dressed as a gold statue because it was the only time during the day that people stared at something besides us. We took some pictures as well, walked around some stores, and had lunch at Boudins ... clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, of course. I was entertained whenever we would be in a store, because we always had people asking us questions. They all thought we worked at the stores because we were all wearing name tags. Silly tourists.

By this time, we finally thought to check the phone. When Elder Barr looked at it, he found out that Edgar had been trying to call us all day because he was concerned with where we were. Apparently, Edgar had fixed the flat tire by himself, then drove to the consulate to wait for us. I guess he just missed us, because he waited outside for three hours, then decided to get out and look inside the building for us. We weren't there anymore so he didn't find us, but after searching for us in the building, he came back to find an $80 parking ticket that he had to pay. Poor Edgar. But, we eventually got a hold of him after we walked around Ghirardelli Square, and we had him take us to the Golden Gate Bridge. People there thought we were in San Francisco for a conference and had us take pictures of their family for them.

We eventually made it back to the airport and while we were waiting in line for security, we kind of got attacked by a group of 50 Polynesians. Apparently their son had just gotten back from a mission and they kind of freaked out when they saw us. They pulled us all out of line since they wanted to take pictures of us, then gave us all candy leis and sent us back on our way. It was a good change to have nice people in San Francisco who recognized us.

The highlight of the day was when we arrived back to the Salt Lake airport. We had planned on eating dinner at Cafe' Rio and had been anticipating it all day. While we were waiting in line to get our food, a nice lady gave us $100 to pay for our dinners. That was the best dinner ever.

Anyway, I don't have enough time to go into more detail, so I'll have to end it there.

Thanks for the letters and the support, and I'll talk to you again next week!

Elder Wilson

Our flat tire.

The bay ... oh and the prison!

Lots of pictures, lots of cameras!

Trevor's MTC companion, Elder Barr.

Our walking path.

Had to get some chocolate!

Elder Louis with his candy lei.

Finally, the end of a very long day. But eating Cafe' Rio made it all worth it!

The Congo jacket as referred to in last week's letter.